We should note that the Church holds celibacy as the disciplinary norm of practice for priests; she allows for some exceptions. Many ancient priests and even bishops had a wife at some point (see 1 Tm 3:2), including the first pope, St. Peter. (Matthew 8:14 speaks of his “mother-in-law.”) Today many Catholic priests of the Eastern rite are married. And even in the Roman rite, a handful of married men (usually clergy converts from a non-Catholic Christian tradition) have been given a special dispensation by Rome to be ordained as priests.
The Church doesn’t teach as a part of the Catholic faith, then, that celibacy is an inherent quality of priesthood - part of its essence. But as St. Paul observes, celibacy has distinct advantages for the man who must give himself wholly to God in ministry to his Church.
Opponents of celibacy often simply assume that such a life is utterly impossible. But St. Paul undeniably teaches the contrary (see 1 Cor 7:7-38), and our Lord speaks without criticism of those who “have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:12).
Celibacy is both a matter of personal choice and, on a deeper level, an acceptance of God’s calling. St. Paul acknowledges the divine impetus (see 1 Cor 7:7, 20) as well as the free-will initiative of human beings in the matter (see 1 Cor 7:35, 38). If a man is called to celibacy, he will be given both the desire and the ability to carry out this way of life successfully (see Phil 2:13).
Finally, we should note that the Catholic Church does not in any sense reject marriage or sexually (see 1 Cor 7:38), as long as these remain within the proper biblical and moral guidelines. According to the Catholic faith, marriage and ordination are both sacraments, both positive and wonderful means of God’s grace.
RELATED SCRIPTURE — Texts cited: Mt 8:14; 19:12; 1 Cor 7:7-38; Phil 2:13; 1 Tm 3:2. General: Sg 1-8; Mt 19:1-12; Lk 2:36-37; Rv 14:1-5. CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH — 922-924; 1579-1580; 1599; 1619; 1694; 1832; 2338-2350.